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Studies from Court and Cloister: being essays, historical and literary dealing mainly with subjects relating to the XVIth and XVIIth centuries online

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others, as much is done here by the influence of women; but he should
on no account allow familiarity with the Queen and other ladies to
degenerate into lightness or worse, for that would involve the ruin of
the whole undertaking. It is customary to say here, 'if a man's life is
good, his religion must be a good one'; but the English are shocked at
every little thing. The King is extremely modest, and the Queen such,
that Father Philip told me her conscience has never lost its baptismal
innocence.

"Having gained the good opinion of the Queen and her ladies, the agent
may aspire to greater things. The court is very accessible to bribes;
it is therefore quite possible to purchase its goodwill; and to this
end it will be well to send the Queen jewels of some value, ostensibly
as presents to her, but in reality that she may distribute them among
those ministers from whom the greatest help may be expected. The envoy
should not make very valuable presents himself, but only through the
Queen, lest he be suspected of ulterior views, or cause danger to the
recipients of them.

"When the ministers have been won over, the Queen, instructed by the
envoy how great a reputation she may acquire by the conversion of this
kingdom, must try to persuade the King to abolish poursuivants and
informers. This he may not be able to effect immediately, being
powerless to repeal parliamentary laws, but he may be able to procure
that the poursuivants and informers shall do nothing without an express
and written order from the Privy Council, and only then in a manner
conformable to the instructions of the same. In this way, Catholics
would have nothing more to fear, because as soon as the Council
resolved to proceed against any individual, the Queen would bring her
influence to bear on any one of its members already on her side, and
the threatened Catholic would be helped, either to fly or to elude the
officials.

"This point gained, an almost tacit liberty of conscience would follow;
the Catholics would take courage, and the moderate Protestants would no
longer fear to declare themselves openly their protectors. Then would
be the time to treat with the King, through the Archbishop of
Canterbury, for the concession of religious liberty, as far as
possible. This once conceded, Father Philip believes that in less than
three years the whole country would become Catholic. Parliament might
then safely be assembled to repeal the laws against Catholics, and
reunion with the Holy See would soon follow.

"But how to obtain liberty of conscience it is not easy to say at
present; neither does it yet concern us, not having arrived so far.

"This is all that Father Philip said, and whatever else he may tell me
I will write to your Eminence, having nothing further to add now,
except that the envoy should be guided in all things by Father Philip,
who has a great reputation for prudence, and is respected by the whole
court."

Nevertheless, Father Philip's ingenious structure soon proved to be
only a house of cards. He understood the Queen, and was not far wrong
in his estimation of Charles, but he was mistaken in thinking the
king's party to be in earnest about Catholicism, and was as wide of the
mark in grasping the archbishop's bent as any Puritan in the realm.

Laud was in some respects wiser than Buckingham had been; he was
content to govern through the King, throwing what power he could into
the hands of the prelates. All the great offices of State were filled
by churchmen. Far from contemplating any submission to the Pope, he
aimed at being a species of independent Pope on his own account. Both
he and Juxon, the Lord Treasurer, refused to see Panzani.

Laud's greatest passion was ambition, if anything in a nature so
contracted could be said to assume the proportions of a fullblown
passion. He had a marvellous capacity for dealing with small things,
and all that came under his ken he studied to the minutest detail. He
was a believer in dreams, and owned to being greatly troubled by them.
"Thursday, I came to London," he once wrote in his diary; "the night
following, I dreamed that I was reconciled to the Church of Rome. This
troubled me much, and I wondered exceedingly how it should happen. Now
was I aggrieved with myself (not only by reason of the errors of that
Church, but also) upon account of the scandal which from that my fall
would be cast upon many eminent and learned men in the Church of
England. Going with this resolution, a certain priest met me, and would
have stopped me. But moved with indignation I went on my way. And while
I wearied myself with these troublesome thoughts I awoke. Herein I felt
such strong impressions that I could scarce believe it to be a dream."

To a becoming gravity the archbishop failed to unite a saving sense of
humour. His temper was hasty, but also vindictive, and he never forgot
an injury, to which fact the notorious Puritan, William Prynne, was
well able to testify. Laud first incurred the enmity of this man and
his friends by his attempts to introduce some measure of ceremonial
into the churches under him. When he began his reform, the places of
public worship were nothing but buildings where discourses and
diatribes against Popery were to be heard in luxuriously upholstered
seats. "There wants nothing but beds to hear the Word of God on," said
Bishop Corbet. The notion of a priesthood had died out of people's
minds. They looked upon their clergy as preachers merely - the cure of
souls was an obsolete term.

Archbishop Grindal had caused the altars to be destroyed, and the
places where they had stood whitewashed, so that no trace of them might
remain.* Laud had the communion tables removed from the middle of the
churches into the place formerly occupied by the altar, railed in, and
distinguished by altar-like adornments. Finally, it became customary to
designate them by the ancient name of altar, while the officiating
minister resumed the name of priest. The people, now become thoroughly
Protestantised, murmured, and thought they saw indications of a return
to Rome.** Some protested that all this superabundant care for
externals was eating the life out of Protestantism; the bugbear of
others was the appeal, now becoming customary, to the Fathers of the
Church, rather than to the Protestant divines of the continent.*** St.
Augustine was suspect, Calvin they knew to be orthodox.

* Articles to be inquired of in the Archdiocese of York - "Whether in
your churches and chapels, all altars be utterly taken down and clean
removed even unto the foundation; and the place where they stood paved,
and the wall whereunto they joined whited over, and made uniform with
the rest, so as no breach or rupture appear." In case any altars
remained, the churchwardens were "to remove them and certify."

** Calendar of State Papers, 1635-36; Dom. Charles I.

*** Gardiner, Fall of the Monarchy of Charles.


The sequel proved that a very real source of danger lay among Laud's
own familiar friends. The archbishop could not restrain the lengths to
which they would go, in following up the track which he himself had
laid open. Burning questions were discussed in the pulpits. Thus,
Panzani, in a letter to Cardinal Barberini, dated March 13/23, 1636,
says: -

"Last Sunday, one of the bishops preached before the King, on the
necessity of Sacramental Confession, saying that the Church has never
been in a good state wherever it was not practised."

Panzani, continuing, went on to say that reconciliation with Rome was
an event anticipated by all, and that many people thought the clergy
refrained from marrying, in order that they might still hold their
parishes in case of reunion. "This," he adds, "is what I hear, but
whether it is true or not, God only knows, who sees the hearts of men."

In the same letter he mentioned another sermon, which had lately been
preached before the king and the court "touching confession, and the
preacher said that its origin could be traced to the Gospel better than
that of any other doctrine; wherefore he exhorted his hearers to
practise it. All the court are now talking of this sermon," he
continued, "and the King himself at supper afterwards spoke highly of
the practise of confession, saying that one ought to mention all the
circumstances of a sin. Someone who was present said he could not think
it right to take away another person's reputation by naming him, if he
were concerned in a sin. The King at once replied that it was not
permitted to name accomplices, and turning to Father Philip, who is
always present at supper, he asked him if he were not right. Father
Philip answered that he was. The Earl of Carlisle, a Puritan, who was
also there, assured Father Philip that he agreed with us in everything,
except that the Pope had power to depose kings. 'We do not believe that
either,' replied Father Philip, 'we only say that the Pope may do it in
extraordinary cases, such as heresy for instance.' The Earl of Carlisle
replied

'You are not all of the same opinion, because I know that some among
you maintain that he has.'

"Here the subject dropped. A lady conversing with Father Philip on the
same occasion said that if confession were to be practised, Protestant
ministers ought to be like ours. 'Why?' asked Father Philip. 'Because,'
answered the lady, 'if they have wives, no one will confess to them for
fear of their repeating to their wives, straight off, the sins confided
to them.'"

In a former letter, Panzani had written: "A preacher said lately that
the Pope was the true Vicar of Christ, successor of St. Peter, and
Chief Patriarch, and he proceeded to enlarge on Papal jurisdiction,
when a tumult arose among the congregation, and afterwards the preacher
was censured."

And again, "On the first day, and also the first Sunday in Lent, the
Bishop of London, preaching before the King, took for his subject the
preparation for our Lord's Passion, and said that it was not only
needful to mortify the spirit, but also the flesh, teaching which is
opposed to the doctrine of the greater number of Protestants."

Thus, the Puritans had some ground for murmuring, and it was not
altogether unnatural, that they and the Catholics also should imagine
that the Church of England had set its face Romewards. The above were
not doctrines such as Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, and Hooper would have
owned, nor would they recognise the churches in which such language was
held.

Greater still would have been the wrath of such men as Prynne,
Bastwick, and Burton, had they known that the Bishop of Gloucester had
applied to Panzani for permission to have a Catholic priest in his
house secretly, to say Mass daily for him; and that he was strongly in
favour of re-union.

William Prynne, barrister-at-law by profession, by reputation a
vituperative pamphleteer, was always ready to denounce, cavil, and
rail. The list of his philippics fills nearly a whole folio volume of
the British Museum Library Catalogue. He had what Wharton, more
graphically than politely, describes as "the eternal itch of
scribbling." The subject of Sabbath-breaking to which he attributed the
fresh outbreak of the plague in 1636, was to him as a red rag to a
bull. Encouraged by his example a whole mass of literature appeared on
the observance of the Sabbath - not the modern Sunday which was decried
as an invention of Rome, but of the old Jewish Sabbath, considered by
the Puritans to have a far better claim to be observed.

Prynne had no perception of the relative value of things.
Sabbath-breaking, predestination, and the supreme wickedness of curls,
or love-locks as they were then called, were of equal importance in his
mind. Laud's innovations put him into a state of frenzy, and he
declared that the Church of England was now "as full of ceremonies" as
a dog was "full of fleas."

Giles Widdowes, entering the lists for the archbishop, argued that "men
should take off their hats on entering a church, because it was the
place of God's presence, the chiefest place of his honour amongst us,
where His ambassadors deliver His embassage, where His priests
sacrifice their own and the militant Church's prayers, and the Lord's
Supper, to reconcile us to God, offended with our daily sins." "Ergo,"
answered Prynne, "the priests of the Church of England are sacrificing
priests, and the Lord's Supper a propitiatory sacrifice, sacrificed by
those priests for men's daily sins!"

Widdowes also wrote in defence of the practice of bowing at the name of
Jesus; and considering doubtless that men should be fought with their
own weapons, took a leaf out of Prynne's book and belaboured soundly
"the lawless, kneeless, schismatical Puritan."

Prynne retorted promptly, entitling his reply, "Lame Giles his
Haltings." Soon afterwards, being cited to appear and defend himself
for having used intemperate language in a book against plays and
players, he was sentenced to have his ears shorn off. As many copies of
his book as were forthcoming were burned by his side as he sat in the
pillory. He was degraded and prevented from pleading as a lawyer. He
only wrote the more. The titles of his book are ingenious, and would
ensure their sale at any time. As for their contents, odious as was the
language he used, Prynne always hit the nail he intended, and was very
good at a blow. In Rome's Masterpiece, he declared that the archbishop
was a "middle-man, between an absolute Papist and a real Protestant,
who will far sooner hug a Popish priest in his bosom than take a
Puritan by the little finger."

Prynne's fellow pamphleteers, Bastwick and Burton, were not far behind
him in the violence of their invectives, but the lawyer must be
admitted to bear the palm for sharp sayings.

In John Bastwick's Litany, instead of "from plague, pestilence, and
famine," we have "from bishops, priests, and deacons, good Lord,
deliver us."

In 1637, Laud summoned the three men before the Star Chamber, to answer
to a charge of libel. Bastwick's crime was for writing against the
"Pope of Canterbury." They were all three found guilty, fined 5000
pounds each, condemned to lose their ears, and to be imprisoned for
life, an astoundingly heavy sentence. But in addition Prynne was to be
branded on both cheeks with the letters S L for slanderous libeller.
Chief Justice Finch ordered the scars left by his former punishment to
be laid bare. "I had thought," said he, "that Mr. Prynne had no ears
but methinks he hath ears." Three years before, the executioner had
only clipped off the outer rims; but now Prynne was to suffer the full
rigour of the sentence. A contemporary thus describes the process: -

"Having burnt one cheek with a letter the wrong way, the hangman burnt
that again, and presently a surgeon clapped on a plaster to take out
the fire. The hangman hewed off Prynne's ears very scurvily, which put
him to much pain, and after, he stood long in the pillory before his
head could be got out, but that was a chance." *

* Documents relating to Prynne, Camden Papers.


He seems to have borne this martyrdom with great coolness, for on his
way back to prison, he composed a Latin distich on the letters S L,
which he interpreted "Stigmata Laudis" - the scars of Laud.

Although the sentence had been imprisonment for life, Prynne and Burton
entered London in triumph three years later; and if revenge is sweet,
Prynne was yet to swim in a sea of sweetness. When by a strange irony
of fate he was hired to search the imprisoned archbishop for papers, he
carried off Laud's diary.

If Panzani could have seen this strange record of the archbishop's
dreams, desires, and impressions, he would doubtless have ceased to
look upon Laud as an important factor in his scheme of the corporate
re-union of the nation with Rome.

Under date 14th August 1634, Prynne read and gloated over those
remarkable entries:

"That very morning at Greenwich there came one to me seriously, and
that avowed ability to perform it, and offered me to be a cardinal,"
and two days later -

"I had a serious offer made me to be a cardinal. I was then from court,
but so soon as I came hither (21st August) I acquainted His Majesty
with it. But my answer again was that somewhat dwelt within me, which
would not suffer that, till Rome were other than it is."

No doubt, in declining the cardinalate, if indeed the offer were not a
figment of his own brain, Laud would have been diplomatic enough not to
allow his reasons to transpire, and probably the Pope never knew them.
The importance of the statement lies for posterity entirely in the
anti-Roman tendency which he expressed in his diary. For the archbishop
himself, to have committed the matter to writing, whether it were true
or imaginary, proved fatal, the entries serving his enemies as the text
of one of the chief indictments against him, when he was brought to
trial. Nothing he could plead made any impression on the minds of his
accusers. His refusal of the purple ought to have vindicated him; but
they maintained that for the offer to have been made to him at all, he
must have been friends with the Pope. Moreover, had he not objected to
the term "Idol of Rome"? and had he not expressed doubt if not denial
of the Pope's being anti-Christ? These things were more than enough for
fanatics whose piety consisted chiefly in denunciations and impolite
epithets. It was as clear as daylight to their minds that the
archbishop had "a damnable plot to reconcile the Church of England with
the Church of Rome."

Presumably, Mr. Prynne's ears were for something in the overwhelming
potency of the argument. But another and scarcely less important
article of the indictment related to some pictures of the Life and
Passion of our Lord, which Laud had once had bound up in Bibles. He had
been so greatly pleased with the result that he ordered them to be
called the Archbishop of Canterbury's Bibles. The Puritans thought they
saw in this strong proof of his "popish and idolatrous affection,"
their ignorance of human nature actually leading them to imagine that
on seeing an image or picture of a divine person men would be forthwith
moved to prostrate themselves in adoration of the material of which it
was composed, no other explanation of the word "idolatrous" being
possible in this connection.

But we must now return to the year 1636, when popular passion ran so
high that the opinion of an onlooker is our only means of arriving at a
fairly accurate appreciation of events. Panzani, who although wrong in
his inferences was correct as to facts, describes the archbishop and
his works with great moderation. In his letters to Cardinal Barberini,
he tells him that Laud is "short in stature, aged about sixty, is
unmarried, and is first in the privy council. His views are moderate,
and he is not unfriendly to the Catholic religion. He has the King's
interests thoroughly at heart; he studies to increase the revenue, and
perhaps for this reason is preferred by the King to all his other
advisers. He is ready for any amount of work, and all ecclesiastical
affairs receive his personal attention. He is reputed an Arminian, and
in nearly all dogmas approaches nearly to the Roman Church. With the
King's permission he has made innovations in the Scotch as well as in
the English churches, has erected altars, and put sacred pictures in
many places. He has the honour and glory of the clergy extremely at
heart. Many think his aim is to reconcile this Church with Rome, others
hold quite opposite views, and both extremes have some show and reason,
for on the one hand, one sees in him great ambition to imitate Catholic
rites, and on the other, what looks almost like a positive hatred of
Catholics and their religion. Sometimes he persecutes them, but this is
interpreted by many to mean only prudence, and a way of escape from the
murmurs and quarrels of the Puritans."

The Queen and Panzani were on excellent terms. Cardinal Barberini had
sent Henrietta Maria some very costly presents, and she was anxious to
show him a similar attention. Father Philip considered that English
horses would form a most suitable gift, but the Queen asked him to
consult Panzani. "If her Majesty wants to send a really acceptable
present to Rome, let her send the heart of the King," said the envoy,
smiling. Father Philip replied that this treasure she wished to keep
entirely for her own.

"I make no doubt," answered Panzani, "that in sending the King's heart
to Rome, the Queen would only possess it the more entirely, and without
danger of rivalry from conflicting religious sects."

Father Philip then told her that if it pleased the Father of Mercy, she
should send this truly precious gift, and that his Eminence cared for
no horses.

Soon after this, Panzani returned home, and was made Bishop of Miletus.
Meanwhile George Conn, a Scotchman, had been chosen to replace him, the
papal court considering that he possessed the rare qualities described
by Panzani as necessary for the delicate position of papal envoy to the
Catholic queen of a non-Catholic country.

Panzani being an Italian, and possessing no language but his own, could
only communicate with the Queen and the secretaries of State through an
interpreter. As he was a priest, he was liable to cause irritation to
such of the court and nation who were not "popishly inclined."

Conn had passed twenty-four years in Italy, had courtierlike manners
and bearing. He was a layman, although a canon of one of the great
Roman basilicas, and as we have already seen, was a candidate for a red
hat. With his brilliant parts, great capacity, urbanity, and zeal, it
is not surprising to learn that he was declared to be a Jesuit, a
generic term not only in his own days, but down to our own, for all who
have laboured diligently to restore the old religion.

We find it quite gravely asserted in the records of the reign of
Charles I., that Jesuits were of three degrees, and were to be found
among politicians, merchants, and the professed Fathers living in
religious houses. It would be obviously superfluous to refute this
ridiculous statement which seems destined to crop up at intervals to
the end of time, quite regardless of the fact that it has been
repeatedly shown to affirm an impossibility.

Conn had no sooner arrived in England than the report was spread that
he was a disguised Jesuit, come to receive the King into the Catholic
Church. Charles, in terror of the Puritans, declared that it was a
purely malicious invention, but none the less he continued to
temporise, and the court to regulate its conscience according to his
vacillating example. Some of the nobility were received into the
Church, and among them Lord Boteler and Lady Newport. Mass was again
said in the houses of the Catholic gentry.

In a letter to the Cardinal, written soon after his arrival, Conn gave
an account of along conversation he had had with Charles, in the course
of which he "remarked to his Majesty that the other powers of
Christendom were extremely jealous of the relations which had begun to
exist between the Apostolic See and Great Britain. They know," he
continued, "that a perfect union between the two must necessarily tend
to check their extravagances, and restore to Christ His lost patrimony
in the west."

To this the King replied with some emotion, saying:

"May God pardon the first authors of the rupture."

"Sire," I answered, "the greater will be your Majesty's glory, when by
your means so great an evil is remedied." To which the King made no
further response. Not long afterwards, Charles asked Conn whether he
considered it an easy thing for a man to change his religion.

"I told him," said Conn, "that when a man applied himself without
passion or prejudice to find out the truth, God never failed to
enlighten him." To which the King took in good part.

"I am obliged to proceed very cautiously," he added, "that they may not
think the rumour of my coming here to receive the King into the Church
had its origin in my presumption. It was a truly diabolical invention,
and calculated to spoil everything."

If the Puritans were angry before, Conn's sojourn in England lashed
them into fury. Rome's Masterpiece was written when his service had
come to an end, and in the first flush of Puritan triumph. On its
title-page it styles the mission "The Grand Conspiracy of the Pope and
his Jesuited instruments to extirpate the Protestant religion,
re-establish Popery, subvert laws, liberties, peace, parliaments - by
kindling a civil war in Scotland and all his Majesty's realms; and to
poison the King himself, in case he comply not with them in these their


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Online LibraryJ.M. StoneStudies from Court and Cloister: being essays, historical and literary dealing mainly with subjects relating to the XVIth and XVIIth centuries → online text (page 15 of 28)